Sibley County Historical Museum

Located in historic Henderson, Minnesota    

Home of the Sibley County Historical Society


How the Museum Began


We are told that everyone has a story to tell.  Here is the story of the family that constructed the home now known as the Sibley County Historical Museum.


Emilie and August F. Poehler

August Ferdinand Poehler (known as August F.) was the 5th of 10 children of Friedrich and Wilhelmina Poehler.  He was born in 1838 in Hiddessen, Lippe, Germany.  In 1856, at the age of 18, August F. and his older sister Augusta arrived in Henderson, where he joined his brothers Henry & Fred in running a trading post.

Emilie Comnick, was born in 1846 in Zempleburg, Prussia, and arrived in Henderson in 1862 with her parents, Adam and Emily Comnick.  The family arrived in Henderson on the steamship "Otter" which had become beached.  It was on this occasion, while August F. Poehler was helping to unload the ship, that he met Emilie for the  first time.

Two years later in 1864, August F. and Emilie Comnick were married on New Year's Eve.  They had six children: Alma, 1865; Bertha, 1867; Albert, 1869; August L., 1871; William, 1875; and Fredrick, 1880.

Because August & Emilie were living in a one story house and their family had grown, plans were made in 1881-1882 to build a larger home.  In 1884 the home was completed at an unheard of cost of $39,000.  When the Poehler's moved into their new home in 1885, the ages of their children ranged from 4 to 19 years.

In 1889, August F. became the sole owner of the family business and the name of the store was changed to A.F. Poehler Company.  Sadly, in April 1891 August F. died suddenly from pneumonia at the age of 53.  He was to enjoy his beautiful home for only seven years before his death.  His wife Emilie continued to run the A.F. Poehler Co. until 1897 when she too died suddenly from pneumonia at the age of 52.

After the death of his parents, August L. continued to run the A.F. Poehler store.  In 1899 at the age of 28, he married Elizabeth Higgins of California; they lived in the 1884 home that his parents built.  Their three sons, (James) Armin, Theodore and Robert were born in this home.  The store was sold in 1916 to the Henderson Mercantile Company and shortly thereafter August L., Elizabeth and their family moved to Minneapolis.  August L. died in 1950.

August F. and Emilie Poehler, along with many other members of the Poehler family, are buried in the Brown Cemetery in Henderson.

The August F. Poehler house in 1884.

The Poehler house today.

The Sibley County Museum

The August F. Poehler house was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982.

The house was built in the summer of 1884 from locally produced brick and mill work. It was completed during the winter of 1885. The family moved into the house the following June , "as soon as the carpets were laid" according to the Henderson newspaper, the Sibley County Independent.  The original roof of Pennsylvania slate shingles was restored in 1983.  Electricity was added in 1898. 

The Poehler house was purchased in 1948 by the Sibley County Historical Society to become the county museum. The building was opened to the public on Memorial Day 1949 and continues to open for the season on that day each year.  In the months prior to the 1949 opening, a countywide collection of artifacts was conducted.  The many items collected were added to society holdings accumulated since the 1940 organization of the society.

A curator was appointed, and with volunteer help, all articles were cataloged and arranged in displays.  Items used by Sibley County pioneers were featured, from a farmer's ox yoke to a lady's Sunday bonnet.

Six principal rooms are on the main floor: dining room, library, parlor, music room, kitchen and summer kitchen.  Items appropriate to these rooms are displayed in them; ceilings are 11'6" in height.  There is a fireplace in the dining room surrounded by Italian tiles.   Central heating and a bathroom were unusual amenities in this era.  Original shutters hang on the windows in most of the rooms.  Catching the eye of many visitors is the alternating maple and black walnut floors and wainscoting in the kitchen and dining room.  The wood used in these areas was from the "big woods" of Sibley County and surrounding area.  Also noteworthy is the original paint and stencil decoration found under many layers of wallpaper.  Both are pictured above.

The basement has many unique tools and special items, such as the Eagle City post office desk and an early 20th century x-ray machine from a Gaylord dentist's office.

Upstairs, five rooms can be seen, arranged as a military room, children's nursery, textile/loom room, bedroom and the government room, which houses equipment used in the courthouse when it was located in Henderson, as well as other Sibley County history memorabilia.  The former bathroom, maid's room and all closets are used for storage, as is the large attic.

Sibley County residents over the 70 year history of the Society have been generous with a great variety of treasures.  The rooms are filled to capacity of items large and small with more in storage for changing displays.  A collections policy governs what additional items can be accepted. 

An addition to the west end of the museum building, dedicated in June of 2010, has added office and work space, a genealogy room, storage area, kitchenette and restroom.  Improved handicapped access is through the new addition.  However, wheel chair use is limited to the first floor rooms.